Wanting lower scaffolding branches on peach tree

datura222June 8, 2013

My husband bought me a peach tree a few weeks ago.

The tree does not have any low scaffold branches. The first branch from soil depth is at 45"+ high. I do not want to use a ladder to get to the fruit.

Can I cut the tree down to 30" from soil level and hope that it will send out new lower scaffold branches? The trunk is about 1" in diameter, so this is no whip by any means. Can peaches even regrow new lower branches if I were to top it off with a trunk width like this?

Or, do I need to throw it out (I feel badly about this), and try to find a new one in the spring which has already been trained with lower scaffold branches from the get-go?

Thank-you so much for any advice....

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Can I cut the tree down to 30" from soil level and hope that it will send out new lower scaffold branches?"

Probably not, unless you can visibly see some dormant buds on the trunk where you want to start your scaffolds.

This would be the wrong time of year to cut the top off regardless. You'd have best luck encouraging lower growth by topping a fully dormant tree.

My advice is if you are considering throwing the tree out anyway, wait till next year. Allow the tree to get established and store energy this summer, then do your beheading early next spring and see if the tree will throw any adventitious buds.

You could always try to graft lower branches, but I've never tried that myself. When I get peach trees which have no lower buds/branches generally there is at least one down at the base of the graft. I cut the top growth and allow the low bud to grow a new trunk, from which I select my scaffolds.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 10:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

I cut all my trees at knee height or lower. It's one of the tenets of BYOC. I would wait until the tree is dormant as heavy winter pruning forces vegetative growth. I've seen branches pop out of no where. Also, I would ignore any cautionary tales and warnings that are sure to follow about this practice, as it is common, well documented and it works well.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 12:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

A one year peach can generally be cut down to the height you want your tree. By the second year it becomes more risky and by the third it will likely kill the tree if you cut below any growing shoots, although the results are unpredictable. Many other species would reliably send out new shoots from such a cut- even when quite old.

That said, you can buy a new very small tree for pretty cheap and train it any way you want. Peaches only take about 3 years to get from a tiny bare root to a bearing peach tree- probably 2 in your z9. So you can risk the one you have with a decap cut and replace it if worse comes to worse. I too would wait until January (in your zone) to do it.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

I would also be hesitant to follow the advice of anyone who suggests their's is the only valid point of view.

Olpea is a commercial grower of peaches and manages hundreds of these trees- I'm a commercial nurserymen who often cuts peaches down to the trunk when I'm in a hurry to remove a tree- I've probably done it 30 times or so, leaving it well into the growing season before I get around to removing it. Such trees are much more likely to send out growth from the rootstock than the severed trunk.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Chris-7b-GA(7b)

I would like to second all of the above recommendations. I bought a 5 foot, about 1 " caliper potted redhaven with a good root system from a local nursery about a month ago that had fully leafed out. I did the usual knee high prune at planting. There is now no sign of growth and I am pretty sure it is dead. Wish I would have waited until winter to prune.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 1:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

Chris, waiting till winter may not have saved the tree. peaches often don't have dormant shoots in older wood. Trees I've decapitated have been done while dormant. They've also usually been older than yours, but I have done this to three year old trees with fatal results.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 2:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
another_buffalo(6)

I bought the same tree as Chris at about the same time and did not cut it back as it has a few fruit on it. The lowest limbs are pretty small and are something I would have pruned off in favor of the sturdy high branches. But it would be way, way too tall. Would those scrawney branches at the bottom develop next year if I purne the tree way back in January? I'd rather have the tall tree than no tree......

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 3:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

The original poster wants lower branching on their peach tree. I have lower branching on my peach trees, and I can say that it's a very good thing to have.

So, the OP can follow the BYOC directions at DWN which has been in business since 1938, and untold 1000's of people have followed the same directions successfully, both commercially and in home orchards, including myself. Other suggestions from the experienced pros include grafting on some lower branches and picking up another tree for cheap and just starting over again.

Once again, all the professional experience in the world is of little value to home growers like me if it isn't focused on our specific requirements.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

Mr. Clint, I think you are missing the crucial point of the age of the tree. DWN sells one year trees- what applies to them does not necessarily apply to an older tree. I'm pretty sure even without looking that DWN does not advise decapitating an older peach tree- that being more than 2 years or even only 2 year.

I don't know the age of the tree being discussed, but I'm guessing it is at least a 2 year tree which would make that treatment hit or miss, IMO.

I bet you followed instructions at time of planting and topped your trees the first season as soon as they were in the ground.

An. Buf. If you want to save lowest limbs you better make sure they get a lot of light. Peaches quickly discard poorly lit branches. If they get light now and start to show some vigor they will be able to take over next season. You must be ruthless with upper branches to get the light down low.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 4:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

DWN sells by diameter (mine have been anywhere from 1/2" to 1") not necessarily by age, but age and size are of course connected.

Whenever I top work a peach tree, or prune the top heavily, there are always small branches that pop out way down low on the trunk above the graft line. This happens on mature trees.

That said, if someone wanted to be overly cautious, they could Winter prune the top very heavily, possibly leave a portion as a nurse branch, and wait for lower branches to emerge. Then go ahead and top it off slightly above the emerging branch of their choice. I never had to go to that extreme with a 1" diameter tree.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

No, I believe they sell only one year trees of various diameter, or I should say that their franchises do. Maybe some of these nurseries size up the trees in pots but DW would not likely have anything to do with that. They graft, let them grow one season and dig them all up for sale. That is how every large commercial nursery I deal with does it.

You work with, what, 3 varieties of peaches? Some are inclined to sprout new shoots on old wood but that doesn't mean they will reliably do this when you remove the entire top.

We've been over this issue on this forum several times and many have observed the tendency of peaches to be killed when completely topped. You are the first person here who insists on a different outcome, although I bet you've never actually tried it with an older tree.

Why don't you call DW nursery and ask them what they think - or better yet e-mail them and you can post their response here.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 9:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

DWN is aware of this issue and recommend caution topping trees above 3/4 inch. They would prefer to sell homeowners smaller trees for BYOC dense plantings. But sometimes they don't have the smaller stock for reasons explained below.

Some of their trees are dug the winter immediately after budding. These are the ones I prefer because they can be topped down low.

But some of their trees are June budded, grown that summer, and grown the next summer because they weren't big enough to dig the first winter (or maybe they delayed digging for reasons of excess inventory). These trees have all those lower branches pruned off the first winter. I've killed the scion on one Emerald Beaut plum, ~3/4 inch, by topping at 18 inches. But have had many I was afraid to top as low as I wanted.

Northern nurseries by and large probably dig most of their stock the second winter without them getting too big because of their shorter growing season.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Sat, Jun 8, 13 at 22:15

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 10:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I cut all my trees at knee height or lower. It's one of the tenets of BYOC. I would wait until the tree is dormant as heavy winter pruning forces vegetative growth. I've seen branches pop out of no where. Also, I would ignore any cautionary tales and warnings that are sure to follow about this practice, as it is common, well documented and it works well."

It is true most general commercial recommendations for open vase are to head peach trees back to 24"-30" at planting (I do this as well). However, the commercial guidelines follow the assumption there are branches or buds below the heading cut (as is the case 90 to 95% of the time). Where the distinction is made in literature about the specifics of this discussion (i.e. no buds below the heading cut) guidelines I've read generally recommend against it (I can't offer a source at my fingertips. I read about 5 commercial newsletters and one trade magazine every month and can't keep track where I've read it, but I know I've read about this very discussion in professional literature more than once.)

DWN doesn't make a distinction in the BYOC guidelines you linked between heading back a tree which has buds below the cut, or heading back one which doesn't. They don't even make a distinction in the link between heading back a peach tree, and other fruit trees (This is a problem more specific to peach trees.) In other words their advice is very general in this regard, and probably not very authoritative for this discussion.

I think vigor is probably an important factor for the success or failure of heading back a peach tree with no buds below the cut. I only planted about 70 peach trees this spring. About 20 of those were from Adams county. As always several of them had only buds at the very base of the tree with feathers above 2' (nothing in between). I cut the tops off these trees (as I did with the rest that buds all up and down the trunks) and I don't believe a single one threw out any adventious buds. The only growth was from one or two buds at the base of the tree (just above the graft). The rest of the tree just looked like a stick sticking up all spring, while the one or two shoots grew at the base.

It works for me though because I grow a new trunk from the one of the shoots at the very base of the trunk and end up cutting the dead stick off.

Normally I try to make sure there are some live buds below the cut before I head a new peach tree back. However last year I had a couple peach trees I headed back and what I thought were one or two live buds below the cut were not alive at all. Not only did the buds I thought alive not sprout, but the trees never threw any adventitious buds at all. One of the trees threw up suckers from the rootstock (which I re-grafted to the original variety) but the other tree didn't throw up anything at all. I replaced other tree with the same variety grafted on one of my seedling rootstocks.

As I said I think success may depend on the vigor of the new peach tree. My results in heading back peach trees with no buds below the cut has not been very encouraging. Like Fruitnut, I try to be pretty careful when I head new trees.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 11:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

"Also, I would ignore any cautionary tales and warnings that are sure to follow about this practice, as it is common, well documented and it works well."

Obviously we've had this discussion a number of times in the past. The same cautions, prejudices and attacks get trotted out each time. In this particular case the choice is clear, cut a 1" diameter tree shorter than 45" tall or don't. Please report back how you proceeded and how it went for you.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 2:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

"The same cautions, prejudices and attacks get trotted out each time."

No one is attacking anyone, but folks with different opinions are, hopefully, trying to defend someone from making a mistake that might kill a tree or leave it in a form that is difficult to manage. And how is anyone prejudging anything in these statements?

Why make this a political discussion with the language of an Op Ed?

Fruitnut, thanks for the clarification about nursery production. I had forgotten that in long season areas nurseries often grow trees that are budded later and don't even grow a full single season. None of the nurseries I buy from seem to do this.

DW should probably top those peach trees at the beginning of the growing season if they don't dig them up- but that would probably require too much labor.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 5:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
midlin(5B)

This discussion is interesting- I have peaches that I headed at 30" above graft at planting and removed scaffolds below 18". I regret keeping a couple of the lowest ones around 18" because it is hard to work under the tree (tanglefoot borers etc).

For the next trees I was planning on keeping animals off with no scaffolds under 3 feet with sheet metal, so the scaffolds would be from graft above 36" and below 48".

In your discussion all scaffolds above 45" above soil is undesireable, but what is the best scafold height range and why (lower vigor, need ladder, etc)? I kept 3 to 4 peach scaffolds trained to a 120 degrees open vase center, so light seems to be OK any which way. They are on seedling or Bailey. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
midlin(5B)

And I just looked out the window, and have lost a 2nd of the lowest scaffolds in the orchard (apple). An animal took another yesterday. I think it is rabbit bites (don't know where the red fox went).

Another reason to have higher scaffolds.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 11:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

midlin:

You can have your scaffolds at 5-6ft or higher if that's what works for your situation. The people like me cutting at 18 inches want a final tree height of 6-8ft. My trees are closely spaced, some as close as 3ft by 4ft others as wide as 6ft by 8ft. Also some of these trees are in pots. That adds 15-20 inches to height. Those are held to 6-7ft.

If you're talking 10-14ft tall and deer or squirrel issues below it's a totally different deal.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 11:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

I cut my first and second year stone fruits to 30". They all grew lower branches (some even too low). I suggest doing it durring dormancy. Never tried during the growing season.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 12:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

The Dave Wilson Nursery Tree Harvest for home growers consists of 1 to 2 year old trees and then they grade them by calliper size. There is no age distinction between a one year old 1" tree and a 2 year old 5/8" tree. They are simply sold by diameter. Rootstock vigor is going to determine the calliper of the tree at a given time. The Junebud trees appear to be a commercial designation and should not apply to this discussion.

The prejudices that I speak of are tied to disregard for the BYOC concepts out of hand and the preconceived view that it is just a money grab by DWN to sell more trees. The attacks are more subtle in that personal experience trumps all, regardless of the actual application, and the source that is being condemned has more experience than anyone that posts here.

All the 20+ year tree pros and commercial folks that play that card, can please stop playing that card over and over again. It doesn't tip the scale one iota. We don't know how successful you really are with your businesses, we don't see step by step articles and videos from you that can be scrutinized the way we do with DWN.

As long as we continue to have all this push back against BYOC, new users will come to the message board afraid to make simple pruning cuts, intimidated because they have someone's "20 years of experience" telling them they can't do something as simple as cut a 1" diameter tree down to a more manageable size. This cut is made all the time.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 2:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

Mr. Clint, if you want to discuss the nature of a particular poster, or posters, please do so by e-mail directly and not by inuendo on the general forum. And please speak for yourself only, as I believe we all only get one vote here.

I would have e-mailed this message to you but couldn't find access through this site. There is a lot more I'd like to say about your comments but this is not really the place. alandhaigh@gmail.com

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 3:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Mrclint:

DWN realizes some of their trees are to big for BYOC. See the link below, especially posting 6 by Craig of DWN where he states "We're trying to produce more 1/2" and 5/8" trees, but so many items do not consistently size well enough as a one-year tree. Too-big yearlings and too-small Junebuds have been problems forever".

That's followed by this statement: "We do, of course, recognize the need to better supply trees conducive to BOC-style growing."

What about that says too big trees aren't an issue????

Here is a link that might be useful: DWN forums discussion on topping trees low

This post was edited by fruitnut on Sun, Jun 9, 13 at 16:03

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 3:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
midlin(5B)

Thanks Fruitnut- if is just ladderwork, reducing animal pressure is helpful for me (and no deer here).

Maybe the OP can consider if this works for them somehow- maybe keeping the open vase angle 120 to 130 degrees is enough to keep much closer to the ground- the trunk difference is a foot or two and the branches may be kept with an angle slightly closer to the ground to help.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 6:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

Fruitnut, that post on the DWN forum has been there a while and has a little something for everyone to feel good about, doesn't it?
"Topping a tree to knee height, below any existing limbs, tends to work best if done early in the bareroot season. Latent buds require hormonal guidance to develop (which takes time)."

You went away feeling like you got the answer you wanted and BYOC folks walk away unchanged and validated. Everybody gets a little red meat on that one. Good to see you posting links though. :)

Harvestman, if we can all assume that each of us has the best of intentions, but come at the same puzzle from a different angle, it can be a good thing. But you can't play your experience card like it trumps all else and finalizes the discussion. And anyone with less experience than you is automatically discounted. Seniority and tenure carry little weight for reasons previously stated. That said, there isn't anything that I would say to you in an email that I wouldn't say to your face or on a public forum. Nobody ever wins these discussions. The fact that we all care enough to disagree strongly for the good of moving the ball forward for others is the key. We could all just walk away with an "I got mine" attitude. But where's the fun in that? :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 2:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
murkwell

Wow mrclint, I don't know what beef you have from other threads, but in this one it is like you aren't even reading the postsn

I don't see any statement in this thread disparaging BYOC, not even indirectly.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 2:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

Mr. Clint, what you are doing violates the rules here. That is why I asked you to address me by e-mail. It isn't out of bashfulness or a desire of privacy for myself. Comments are supposed to apply to the specific question posted and not to your opinion of other peoples attitudes. Most people that participate on this forum probably don't enjoy these kinds of debate..

Whether my experience should be factored in as far as assessing the validity of any stated opinion is up to a person asking a question. I believe experience is the best teacher, especially when your livelihood depends on success.

If my customers don't get their harvest I don't get their future work and there are no excuses. I am desperate for results and obsessed with affective solutions for the vast majority of my wakeful hours and too many hours in my dreams.

The poster of a question can decide for themselves if this is a reason to give my answer more weight. Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong but my background has everything to do with how I come to my conclusions and the value of my input.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 5:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

DWN seems to be making excuses for not reliably providing a product that they could easily grow. It seems like all they would have to do is top the "too small" tree and sell it already branched after the scaffolds grew out.

They would have to charge more for the additional labor and shipping costs but to suggest that accomplishing this is beyond their control is a public relations gesture IMO and not providing these kinds of trees is a business decision.

This falls into the category of business as usual and is not meant to disparage DWN. They do devote more than an average amount of effort to public relations and some of this investment is quite beneficial to their customer base, I'm sure.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 5:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"No one is attacking anyone, but folks with different opinions are, hopefully, trying to defend someone from making a mistake that might kill a tree or leave it in a form that is difficult to manage."

I could have used that advice. I did this to two tree that were probably 2 years old. One didn't sprout any buds at all. I have since replaced it. It died. Your advice about heading older trees, or should I say not heading older trees is excellent. I only have 6 months growing experience and have discovered that. The other tree spouted two branches right above graft (just like Olpea said they would). I'm now going to make a new central leader. I actually have a question here. it is now 30 inches tall (the new branch). Should I wait till this winter to head the new branch? Let is grow and harden off? It is very soft right now. This is on a Nectaplum btw. Seems more peach tree than plum!

This post was edited by Drew51 on Mon, Jun 10, 13 at 10:00

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 9:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fireduck(10a)

Lots of strong opinions here...(and differing ones). haha. I say do what is easiest for you now, and cut it down. I bet it will re-shoot. If it does not...buy a new one. goodluck

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 10:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"It seems like all they would have to do is top the "too small" tree and sell it already branched after the scaffolds grew out. "

You know I do have an Indian Free peach that they must have done this to! It's the cutest little thing, it had very low braches when I got it indirectly from DWN. I did not have to top it. Also the multi-graft trees are also all topped before the grafts are put on. Although you have to pay twice as much for all the work. I love the 4 n 1 Pluot tree though. It's very cool to be able to grow and pollinate pluots and only have one tree. It allows me to have more trees. More trees are always a good thing!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 10:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
olpea(zone 6 KS)

"It is now 30 inches tall (the new branch). Should I wait till this winter to head the new branch?"

Drew,

I've no experience w/ nectaplum, but if it behaves like a peach, I'd go ahead and head it to your desired height now. I do this on my peach grafts. They are transplanted in the spring as "sleepy-eyes" - just a grafted bud that callused the previous fall. They start growing in the spring and I prune them several times during the summer.

I have some new peach grafts transplanted this spring that are already about ready to head back.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 7:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks! I think I will let it grow a touch taller then head. Yes, it has peach leaves except they are red. Shape is exactly like a peach. Thin long leaves. It is a beautiful plant and has ton's of huge flowers in the spring. Well mine hasn't but I have seen pictures. Nice huge pink flowers that cover the tree, red foliage that turns green later in the season. So far mine are still all red. Fruitnut didn't think the fruit was anything special, but the plant itself is really a good looking tree for ornamental reasons in one's backyard.
So it's a dual purpose plant, edible and beautiful ornamental. I wish i would have put it in the front yard!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 11:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MrClint

I'm looking at the gardenweb terms of service and I don't see how I am breaking any of the boards rules. I do think some of the "pros" walk a thin line with this one:
You agree not to make postings of a commercial nature;

Murky, you got it right. There are long standing pockets of negativism. It was much worse when I first started posting here. Lots of folks are sold on it now. There are still strongholds that won't even acknowledge it as an option! The buggy whip industry wasn't too positive about automobiles back in the day either. :)

Drew, I think the clarifying point is that you have to top a dormant tree so that it will produce the hormone(s) that induces the branch creation. That is what the poster in fruitnut's link is saying, and what I am saying based on trees I've topworked and chopped off at the knee. If you wait until the tree is past dormancy you run the risk of not getting the new/low branching. Winter pruning forces vegetative growth, Summer pruning keeps vegetative growth in check. With BYOC it is important to prune appropriately. The DWN site has plenty of descriptive videos, articles and pictures that detail the process. You don't have to pay a message board hero to come out to your orchard and make it all work. ;)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 10:32AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Paw Paw in Monmouth County NJ
I'm interested in growing several fruit trees on my...
ritzandbigb1
Asian pear spray in first year
Just planted a dwarf asian pear from Starks. Do I need...
ferroplasm Zone 7b
Broken citrus tree
Hello all. Last May, I planted satsuma and kumquat...
lsugolfredman
Looks like no pears this year.
We have gotten a lot of chill hours this year for the...
insteng
hewes crab apple
looking for 10 or so scions. of course i will pay....
randymontana
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™